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Showing 1-10 of 13 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 101 reviews
on July 18, 2015
This is one of the weirdest novels I have ever read. It falls into the 'new weird' classification, with a sense that underneath a normal-seeming skin, the world is a distorted and deeply weird, even disturbing place. It made it a bit of a creepy read--not a bad thing, in my book! I loved the characters, who are correspondingly strange, touched by the shadows they dabble in and also by the choices of their own pasts. It left me unsettled and wanting more.
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on January 22, 2014
This book is exciting and enjoyable, though the reviews do not do it justice. For one, the setting is NOT Victorian, it is Edwardian. Constant comparison to Sherlock Holmes belittles the character of Edward Moon, who in no way resembles Holmes other than the fact that he is eccentric and lives around (not in) the Victorian era. The plot is complex and suspenseful, laid out skillfully by the untrustworthy narrator to beat them all.
The problem that I do see is that some things from the beginning of the book are not properly explained after the excitement of the second half. The reader is left with the vague suspicion that we haven't gotten the whole story, but a clever mind should be able to fill in the blanks without too much trouble.
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"The Somnambulist" is without a doubt one of the oddest books I have read in a long time. Johnathan Barnes has a unique writting style that works well in combining suspense and some very subtle humor.

No plot spoilers from me. Set in Victorian England, the plot follows Edward Moon (AKA: The Conjurer), a once popular stage magician and showman who is also a part time detective, and his partner, The Somnambulist (a hulking mute with an odd ability and mysterious background), as they attempt to solve a truely bizzare series of murders.

I really enjoyed the book right up to the ending which was not as satisfying as it might have been. Still it was worthwhile and I also enjoyed the sequel, The Domino Men.

Recommended!
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on July 13, 2011
Many elements in this book were entertaining, not least of which was the writing style. The characters were interesting and, for the most part, well developed; the storytelling style was fresh; and the steampunk overtones were a welcome distraction. However, the storyline, while interesting, was poorly executed, at times difficult to follow, and the ending falls flat. Worth reading, but not something I think I'll be going back to.
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on March 30, 2008
What I liked most about his book was the sense of complicity the author uses to establish a dialog with the reader. It is a good first try, if you keep in mind that it is a fantasy book, entertaining for a rainy afternoon. Do not expect too much: there are too many things not explained, characters not wholly developed and a general atmosphere of a cross between old police-detective-investigation meets vampires-witches-warlocks. Nevertheless, will keep an eye for his new work.
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on September 18, 2015
Interesting book. Definitely worth reading. Plot is fantastic and the characters are intriguing. Highly recommend it!
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on March 21, 2008
The Somnambulist - who is never named and who never speaks - is only the most featured oddity in Barnes' repetoire of strange men and women who populate turn-of-the-20th-century London. Others include a bearded lady with a formarm growing out of her chest, a man who lives life backwards through time, an albino spy, and various societal castoffs and misfits. The protagonist, a conjorur who merely travels in their circles - Edward Moon - seems almost normal by comparisson. Moon has to unravel a mystery. Who pushed a bit actor out of a window in a London tower in the wee hours of the morning, and more significantly, how did he scale the sheer stone wall of the tower to do it? The tale is narrated by someone who seems to be a part of the story, but we are not quite sure how until much later. Beleive me, it is worth the wait to find out. In the meantime, the old man sleeps far beneath the city. Like "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel," The "Historian," "The Alienist," or even Alan Moore's "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," (see my other reviews, as well as my own book, Neitherworld for similar off-the-wall characters) we are treated to an crossroads time between the superstitious old times, with their myths and monsters, and our new modern age. Like all good scene setters, Barnes makes you feel the dank, dark London of the age in a few carefully chosen words. There is poetry here, as well as adventure. This is an author in control of his craft even in his debut novel. The middle gets a bit soggy but picks up well in the second half when Moon's captivating sister joins the chase. Barnes has enough confidence in himself to evolve his characters, and the bad become the good, and even the good sometimes the very, very bad. The author is taking chances, and pulling them off. Highly recommended.
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on September 13, 2008
Crawling with human and animal vermin both strange and wonderful, into warrens of London's underbelly tunnels, and topside through clouded dens of opium filled dark alleys, Jonathan Barnes takes the reader into the arcane and grotesque.

The author does not paint a monochrone picture in the Somnambulist. He offers us a kaleidoscope of colorful Victorian London inhabitants both good and evil. There is no reality here, this is an England of fantasy, nothing and no one is solid, reliable or tangible. Not in the sense we are used to anyway.

Blurry with the thickness of London fog, within the stinking miasma, from page one Barnes takes us on a journey amongst a freak show cast of characters both hideous and hilarious. The reader will not forget them for a very long time to come. From the start to the finish, questions both mysterious an curious conjur up a world of fantastic abominations of nature. We find background players of bearded ladies, pink-eyed albinos, time travelers, con men, murderers, monsters, street bums of prophecy, ladies with crystal balls, and madams of a redlight nature. This beautiful yet bizarre circus-like atmosphere stirs together a macabre conconction of intriquing madness. Yes, madness is the only word for The Somnabulist, marvelous, ingenious madness!

Lurking within these dark shadows, under the bloothirsty cover of night where no one is safe, we have the two stars of this imaginative novel, Edward Moon and his sidekick The Somnambulist. Most nights Edward and the Somnambulist are performing their magic act at the Theatre of Marvels. But as the curtain opens, Mr. Moon is a bit of a washed up has-been and the time of dazzling his audience has come to an end. But the reader need not worry themselves about Mr. Moon's future, this inventive duo have better things taking up their time. In between acts of illusion, Mr. Moon and his 8 foot giant assistant have a rather unusual hobby helping Scotland Yard solve dastardly and devious crimes. They are found scampering and scurrying through the gloom and grime, desperate to uncover the many cryptic puzzles and pieces leading to London's impending doom.

Murder is afoot in London, mischief and mayhem abound. Moon and the Somnambulist are called on to solve a murder that is highly out of the ordinary, they soon find that the city around them is not what it seems, and that their known world has suddenly gone quite askew.

If you are a reader that wants everything that happens in a book to make sense, if you are a reader who needs reality and resolvement, this book is not for you. Reading The Somnabulist will require incredible "out of the box" thinking. What you believe is transparant, becomes opaque. Certainty becomes an illusion, unanswered questions fall through crevices lost forever. You will need to go with the flow, enjoy the ride, put the highest level of your imagination to the test. This book seeps, drips, and oozes with fantastical slime and sinister derring-do that I promise will leave you breathless, puzzled, and in awe, of this creative blockbuster debut from the promising new novelist Jonathan Barnes.
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on December 21, 2014
Read it twice
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on February 25, 2008
I read this book because I thought that the title was interesting. It turned out to be pretty good. I like to read all forms of fiction, but I really prefer historical fiction. Valentin St.Cyr and Easy Rawlings are some of my favorite protagonists. While I don't consider this book to be in the same league as the aformentioned, it kept my attention and I became determined to find out how it ended. I would not recommend this book to anyone who has never read a british author, some of the phrases, words, and settings are very "english," but still worth the little effort some may need to put forth to understand some of the contexts.

Overall, try it out!!!!

please visit me at BookDevour@blogspot.com
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